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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Lebanese elections 2018: Live updates

Lebanese citizens are awaiting official results from the country's first election in almost a decade. Stay with The National for the latest from the 2018 Lebanese elections

Read more: Arab Youth Survey 2018: gloomy times for young people in the Levant

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9pm: Live coverage closes

Read the latest report here: Hezbollah claims victory amid reports of vote fraud

Also find analysis from Gareth Smyth here: Lebanon election result exposes nation's vulnerabilities

7.20pm Lebanese Minister of the Interior Nohad Machnouk has responded to complaints by candidates Paula Yacoubian and Joumana Haddad about possible vote tampering after they failed to secure their seats. He notes that the initial results – which suggested the candidates had won – had been only provisory and were not considered official. "These results are not formally recognised by the Ministry as long as they are not issued by the competent authorities," he writes on Twitter.

7.15pm The French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher has congratulated Lebanese on the election and urged the rapid formation of a new government.

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7.11pm "We must avoid any sectarian or inciting speeches," says Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "So that we avoid any conflict in the country."

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6.53pm This election is a great moral and political victory for the resistance that protects the country, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The resistance will continue because it has the trust and support of its people.

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6.50pm We need big representation in parliament for two reasons, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says:

  • First is to ensure security protection for the resistance;
  • Secondly, when you have a strong parliamentary bloc you have the power to achieve your electoral programmes.

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6.38pm Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah tells his audience:

  • The security during yesterday's vote was good;
  • The new proportional representation law has not lead to the elimination of any party;
  • We should not return to any form of majoritarian electoral laws; and
  • The elections are a major national achievement for the country.

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6.36pm Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's press conference has begun.

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5.36pm The National Democratic Institute says in its preliminary findings into yesterday's election that "although inconsistencies were reported, voting was generally peaceful, orderly and well-organized as executed by polling officials and security forces who did their jobs with admirable professionalism, compassion and pride."

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5.30pm Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has alleged possible voter fraud in Baalbek-Hermel. He says: "The Minister of the Interior must intervene immediately to investigate what is happening in order to disqualify those [ballot boxes] which were illegally and deliberately planted."

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5.22pm The National Democratic Institute has published its election findings, urging Lebanon to strengthen its democratic institutions.

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5.20pm Prime Minister Saad Hariri has also commented on Hezbollah's weapons.

"The president said that after the elections, there will be discussion on a national defence strategy. As for the issue of weapons, my position is well-known. I am against any illegitimate weapons."

"Hezbollah has a parliamentary bloc, yes, and it has weapons, but this is a regional issue. As for the Beirut [election] results, I am proud of Beirut."

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5.16pm Despite Prime Minister Saad Hariri saying the Future Party has lost one third of its seats, he is still the front-runner to form the next government as the Sunni leader with the biggest bloc in parliament. Lebanon's prime minister has to be a Sunni under its power-sharing Taef Agreement.

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5.14pm Prime Minister Saad Hariri concludes his address:

  • This democracy that we practiced, and this freedom that we practiced. We need to safeguard this no matter what the election results are. We need to protect our families' and the people’s rights.
  • It is no longer acceptable after today that there be any Lebanese under the poverty line.
  • Long live democracy, long live Lebanon.

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5.12pm Prime Minister Saad Hariri's statement continues:

  • Today, people in all Lebanese areas saw that our party has a strong backing.
  • The Future Party is a moderate party and for all the people. I have huge confidence in the people.
  • Your confidence in the party and in me is an honor that I wear proudly on my chest, a responsibility I carry on my shoulders, and a map I hope to walk through with all of you.
  • As usual, and what the martyr, Rafik Hariri, has taught us: I extend my hand to all those keen on stability and on projects needed for the development of the country.
  • I extend my hand to every Lebanese, man and woman, who took part in the elections.

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5.07pm A summary of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's press conference in Beirut so far:

  • Our battle as the Future party and its lists and candidate was on several fronts to defend our political presence and to combat the forged lists [of candidates] in the hands of those against the Future party.
  • We have overcome those battles, and we can raise our heads up high.
  • The preliminary results you have seen so far give the results: our party has 21 seats in Parliament.
  • We were betting on a better result, this is true.
  • Today, we are in a new phase, and we have many challenges, and as head of the Future Party, I will continue to battle these challenges on all levels, including political, social and economic.

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5.04pm Prime Minster Hariri's press conference is ongoing. Meanwhile, Jouman Haddad is continuing calls for protest after failing to be declared winner of Beirut I’s Christian minority seat.

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5.01pm Prime Minister Hariri says his Future Movement won 21 seats in parliament, down from 33 previously.

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4.58pm Here is the live link to Prime Minister Hariri's press conference:

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4.55pm Prime Minister Saad Hariri is about to start his press conference.

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4.29pm Even once the results are announced today, forming a government could take months, says The National's David Enders.

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4.24pm Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil will be hosting a press conference at 6.45pm Beirut time.

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4.18pm The National's David Enders says supporters of Saad Al Hariri expect he will remain prime minister, despite his Future Party expected to lose seats.

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4.15pm The National Democratic Institute is about to start its press conference on their Lebanon election observer mission.

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4.11pm The National's David Enders is on the ground in Tareq Al Jadeeda in Beirut, where supporters of Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri are waiting for him to address yesterday's election results.

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3.39pm "No specific time has been set so far" for releasing the official election results, a Ministry of Interior source tells local channel MTV Lebanon.

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3.31pm Joumana Haddad – a prominent local journalist – says she will contest the election results and ask for a recount after she and another local journalist Paula Yacoubian failed to win seats in Beirut on the Kollouna Watani list, an electoral alliance that refuses to identify with any of the country’s sects.

It initially looked like the two had taken the seats, which in the past been held by Christian and Armenian parties. Now Kollouna Watani is calling for protests.

"Today at 5 O’Clock in front of the Ministry of Interior in Sanayeh, we will not allow the forging of results and the falling of Jumana Haddad!"

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3.06pm Still no word on when the Interior Ministry will announce election results. It's just gone 2pm in Lebanon and in a little under an hour the National Democratic Institute's international observation mission says it will release its statement of preliminary findings and recommendations.

Later at 5.00pm Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to speak.

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1.31pm The Ministry of Interior was originally scheduled to announce the election results at 11am local time but the press release is yet to begin. Meanwhile, a press conference by Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri has been pushed to 3.30pm, The National's Beirut correspondent David Enders tells us.

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12.54pm Official results from yesterday's vote are expected to be announced shortly by the Ministry of Interior.

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11.53am Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa has warned of reports of intimidation of voters during yesterday's election. "The democratic process becomes a disaster for the people when thugs, thieves and agents control it, and the results are decided before the citizen puts the paper in the ballot box," he tweeted late last night.

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11.47am Lebanon’s first parliamentary vote in a decade was a largely peaceful affair, but there were sporadic reports of violence before, during, and after the vote. Read our latest coverage here.

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Vote projections say Hezbollah and its allies have made gains, but official results are yet to be released: Read the full story of the day's events here

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8.28am: Initial results suggest the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its political allies may win more than half the seats in Lebanon's first parliamentary election in nine years, according to preliminary results cited by politicians and local media early on Monday.

The result, if confirmed by the final count, would boost Hezbollah politically, with parties and individuals aligned with the heavily armed militia securing a simple majority in parliament in Sunday's election.

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4.50am The National's Joyce Karam gives her analysis of the situation in the election:

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3.50am Hezbollah was poised to seal its dominance of Lebanon on Monday with results for the decade's first general election expected to confirm the Iran-backed party as the main winner, Agence France-Presse forecast.

The party's own estimates a few hours after counting started sees the Shiite movement coming out on top everywhere it fielded candidates, although only official results expected early on Monday will confirm the vote's outcome.

With an increased number of seats in Parliament, Hezbollah is expected with its allies to build a majority in its favour more easily on key issues such as the sensitive matter of the weapons it never laid down after the 1975-1990 civil war.

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2.50am James Haines-Young, an editor at The Daily Star, says that official results are expected after 4am local time, but provides an interesting insight into the race in Tripoli, where it appears the Future movement have held on to their majority in the city:

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2.10am Former television news presenter Paula Yacoubian and Lebanese author are two of five women to be elected to Parliament:

But as some Twitter users are pointing out, that is still a low return when the overall number of seats is considered:

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1.50am Social media users in Lebanon have been posting their thoughts and experiences of the election during the night:

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1.40am Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk also confirmed that the latest provisional turnout was 49.2 per cent. The figure marked a drop from the 54 percent of voters who cast a ballot in 2009, the last time Lebanon elected its parliament.

"This is a new law and voters were not familiar with it, nor were the heads of polling stations," Mr Machnouk said in a news conference. "Voting operations were very slow."

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1.30am Meanwhile, at press conference shortly after midnight, Mr Machnouk confirmed that the official parliamentary election results will be announced on Monday at dawn. He also revealed that at one person had been critically wounded due to celebratory gunfire following the election, according to The Daily Star newspaper.

AlJadeed television channel suggested that there had actually been one person "killed and 3 wounded by gunfire in northern Lebanon":

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1.20am Some initial results began to emerge after midnight. According to a report on Naharnet, a Lebanese news website, the Hizbullah-AMAL Movement coalition had "won all seats in south Lebanon's second and third electoral districts." The coalition itself reported that its list had won four seats in Beirut's second district - with Prime Minister Hariri's Al Mustaqbal movement winning six other seats there.

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10.42pm Early results were expected to start coming in later on Sunday, but official results are not expected to be announced before Monday.

But the low turnout – between 30 and 40 per cent in Beirut precincts according to the country's National News Agency – betrayed widespread voter apathy for the main political currents governing the country and left open the possibility that outside candidates could win seats in parliament. Those upsets, if any, will become clear on Monday.

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10.32pm The Lebanese Interior Ministry has revised its turnout count in the election to 46.88 per cent, a dramatic increase on the earlier toll of 24 per cent. That earlier figure was so low that it pushed Lebanese politicians across the spectrum to make urgent calls registered voters to cast their ballots.

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8.08pm Voting has now closed, though any voters waiting inside a polling station will be allowed to cast their ballot.

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7.30pm Voting hours will not be extended despite requests from some political parties, local media is reporting.

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7.27pm Political parties are continuing to trying to mobilise voters with convoys of flag waving cars and motorbikes moving through downtown Beirut.

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7.20pm Lebanese President Michel Aoun has tweeted that he is surprised by the low voter turn out and urges citizens to get out and vote in the remaining time. "After my follow-up on the electoral process since this morning, I was surprised by the poor turnout to vote," he writes. "I reiterate the call, if change and a new approach are what you want, you must exercise your right. You should not miss the opportunity given by the new law which grants everyone permission to access parliament."

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7.17pm Lebanon's Interior Ministry has not provided voter turnout figures since 2pm.

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7.15pm Polls are set to close in under an hour's time, people waiting inside polling stations will still be allowed to cast their ballots.

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6.55pm The independent, non-profit Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections says application of the voting laws has been lax today and reports that it has recorded hundreds of electoral violations including:

  • Political representatives harassing voters;
  • Political representatives entering polling booths; and
  • Harassment of independent candidates.

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6.33pm Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem is in discussions with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk about maybe extending the vote until after the 7pm deadline.

The reason given is that many want to vote but a slow electoral process may prevent many from doing so.

There are also concerns about the low turnout in today's vote.

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6.25pm Turnout in today's vote appears, at least at present, to be more than half of the turnout witnessed in the last election in 2009. Results in that year showed around 55 per cent of 3.26 registered voters had cast their ballots.

Today's turnout appears to be as low as 24 per cent, according to officials.

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6.12pm President of the Election Observation Committee, Judge Nadim Abdel Malek, has released a statement warning any media outlet that has breached the electoral silence in today's vote that they will be referred to the Publications Court.

Mr Malek held media outlets responsible for disseminating news about candidates they support, but he did not identify them.

Article 78 of the country's electoral law states that silence must be maintained until the polls close. He said that calling on supporters to vote is a violation of the law.

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6.05pm The scene in the southern Beirut suburb of Bourj Al Barajneh as Hezbollah volunteers wait to assist voters, as seen in this picture taken by The National's Beirut correspondent David Enders.

The scene in Bourj al Barajneh, southern Beirut, as Hezbollah volunteers wait to assist voters.
The scene in Bourj al Barajneh, southern Beirut, as Hezbollah volunteers wait to assist voters.

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5.57pm Lebanese voters have taken to social media to publicise their participation in the election that many have been waiting on for years.

Many posted images of their ink-stained fingers on Twitter to show they had got out to wield their vote on Sunday.

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5.49pm The main race in today's vote is between a Western and Saudi-backed coalition headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, part of a region-wide power struggle that is tearing apart the Middle East.

"This shows Lebanon's democracy and the importance of democracy. This is a democratic wedding, and as we said from the start, congratulations to whoever wins tonight", said Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who is running on Hariri's list, after casting his ballot in Beirut.

By mid-afternoon, he said the voter turnout had reached 24 per cent and that preliminary results would start coming in several hours after polls close at 1600 GMT. Official results are not expected before Monday.

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3.12pm Slightly more than 200 of the 609 voters registered at the Bourj Barajneh elementary school in Bourj Barajneh had cast their votes by 2pm, writes David Enders, The National's Lebanon correspondent.

Nadia Shaarawi, the manager of the polling station, said that young people had largely stayed away.

“The young people don’t want to vote,” she said. “I know from my nieces and nephews, they are not happy with any politicians.”

Bourj Barajneh is part of Beirut’s southern suburbs, the main base of support for Hezbollah.

Six election observers from different parties who were sharing a cordial lunch with Sharaawi laughed when they were asked who was ahead in the polls.

“We are,” said the observer, who was representing Hezbollah.

“They’re better at getting their people to the polls,” said an observer with one of the other parties.

A polling station in the Bourj Barajneh elementary school, pictured on 06 May 2018. Bourj Barajneh is part of Beirut’s southern suburbs, the main base of support for Hezbollah. David Enders / The National
A polling station in the Bourj Barajneh elementary school, pictured on 06 May 2018. Bourj Barajneh is part of Beirut’s southern suburbs, the main base of support for Hezbollah. David Enders / The National
A polling station in the Bourj Barajneh elementary school, pictured on 06 May 2018. Bourj Barajneh is part of Beirut’s southern suburbs, the main base of support for Hezbollah. David Enders / The National
A polling station in the Bourj Barajneh elementary school, pictured on 06 May 2018. Bourj Barajneh is part of Beirut’s southern suburbs, the main base of support for Hezbollah. David Enders / The National

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3.10pm While voting runs up to 7pm local time in Lebanon, let's not forget today's other significant vote. Tunisians are voting in their first local elections since the 2011 Arab uprising, a crucial step toward consolidating the country's democracy.

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2.48pm Lebanese President Michel Aoun says that the elections are the most important national and political event happening in Lebanon. “I hope there is a high turnout of voters and that citizens are convinced of how important their votes are,” Mr Aoun said on Twitter.

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2.44pm A member of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces assists an elderly woman to the polling station so she can cast her vote. #Batroun There has been criticism of the lack of access for disabled voters.

Members of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces assist an elderly man to reach the polling station to cast his ballot in #AinAlRammaneh

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2.40pm Kataeb party leader Samy Gemayel says there have been violations of the electoral silence period.

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2.35pm Here's a reminder of The National's excellent video previewing today's Lebanese election. The country has long been a battleground for regional influence and now its own citizens are having their say in the first parliamentary elections in almost a decade. You can watch it here.

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2.30pm Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on Sunday that he regretted most polling stations were not accessible to those with disabilities.

“I have already released a statement expressing my regret, because what happened was an administrative shortcoming by a group of people who was tasked to take care this, and I took the necessary measures against them,” he said during a press conference. “I admit there was a shortcoming.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri also addressed the issue when a disabled voter approached him at one of the polling stations in Beirut.

"We are human beings. It is not fair that we have to be carried like bags of potatoes," the woman, Silvana Lakkis, said. The prime minister promised to address the problem in the next elections.

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2.25pm Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, who also heads the Free Patriotic Movement, poses for a selfie with his wife Chantal as he arrives to vote in the coastal city of Batroun.

Gibran Bassil, the Lebanese Foreign Minister and leader of the "Free Patriotic Movement", poses for a selfie with his wife Chantal as he arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in the Lebanese coastal city of Batroun, north of the capital Beirut, on May 6, 2018, as the country votes in the first parliamentary election in nine years. Ibrahim Chalchoub / AFP 
Gibran Bassil, the Lebanese Foreign Minister and leader of the "Free Patriotic Movement", poses for a selfie with his wife Chantal as he arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in the Lebanese coastal city of Batroun, north of the capital Beirut, on May 6, 2018, as the country votes in the first parliamentary election in nine years. Ibrahim Chalchoub / AFP 

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1.33pm Uber Lebanon is offering free rides to and from selected polling stations today.

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12.56pm Lebanese President Michel Aoun casts his vote on Sunday at a polling station in the southern suburb of Beirut.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (R) casts his vote for Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (Dalati Nohra / AP)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun (R) casts his vote for Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (Dalati Nohra / AP)

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12.18pm: Former Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati, who is also a candidate in the elections, casts his ballot at a polling station in Tripoli.

Lebanon's former Prime Minister and a candidate for the parliamentary election Najib Mikati, holds his ballot at a polling station in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, on May 6, 2018. Omar Ibrahim / Reuters
Lebanon's former Prime Minister and a candidate for the parliamentary election Najib Mikati, holds his ballot at a polling station in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, on May 6, 2018. Omar Ibrahim / Reuters

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12pm: Party organisers at a polling station in Bir Hassan in south Beirut told The National's Beirut correspondent David Enders that voting was going smoothly, though younger people did not appear to be turning out in large numbers yet.

Nonetheless, 24-year-old Abeer Knio said she had been up since 5am to support the Future Party, which is led by current Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

“We hope we will see change,” she said, listing the same issues that most Lebanese do when speaking about the country’s problems.

“Look at the trash in the streets,” she said, gesturing to refuse outside the polling station, which now included empty lunch boxes being handed out by political parties.

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11am: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri voted on Sunday in the first parliamentary elections in nine years.

“I performed my electoral duty and cast my vote like any Lebanese,” he told reporters at a polling station in the Shakib Arslan School in Beirut.

“I think that if we look at what is happening around us and how Lebanon is holding democratic elections, we see that the country is fine.

“Every Lebanese citizen must vote to perform his national duty and vote for whomever he wants.”

When asked whether he had security concerns after the election results were announced, Mr Hariri said: “There is no fear.”

Lebanese Prime Minister and candidate for the parliamentary election Saad Hariri shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018. Jamal Saidi / Reuters
Lebanese Prime Minister and candidate for the parliamentary election Saad Hariri shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in Beirut, Lebanon, May 6, 2018. Jamal Saidi / Reuters

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10am: Queues of voters started forming outside some polling stations in Lebanon's main cities before they opened at 7am.

"It's the first time I vote," Therese, 60, told Agence France-Presse outside a voting centre in central Beirut.

"I've come to support civil society because there's nobody else I like in this country, but I doubt they will win," she said.

In the southern city of Tyre, 28-year-old Jalal Naanou was also up early to support an unprecedented effort by civil society candidates to bring new faces to parliament.

"We came to vote and work for change, to see new lawmakers in parliament, because without it our situation will stay the same or get worse," he said.

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9.20am: "Voter turnout tends to be high when citizens are frustrated: elections are a chance to get rid of leaders who are disliked or deemed incompetent," writes The National's Foreign Editor, Arthur MacMillan, in Beirut.

"Plenty of people feel this way in Lebanon, but its voters will be unable to do either. Starved of a real choice on their ballot papers, they are prepared for more of the same. As a result, most are likely to stay home."

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9am: At least 20,000 police officers are on duty at 1,880 polling stations, according to the interior ministry, amid efforts to ensure a peaceful vote.

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May6, 7am: Today, for the first time since 2009, Lebanon will elect 128 members of parliament. Thousands of Lebanese citizens will head to the polls over the course of the day, where there is much at stake. Polls will open at 7am local time (8am GST) and are due to close at 7pm.

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Read more: Lebanese elections 2018: All you need to know

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May 5, 11.58pm:

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11.30pm: Are the Lebanese elections a "desperate tragicomedy?" Writing in The National, Raghida Dergham says the all-male architects of the electoral law deliberately sidelined women in a country that claims to enshrine equality and modernity. After Sunday's elections, there will not be a sea change in the country’s political landscape. The sectarian system is deeply entrenched and the dismal electoral law it has produced has only rekindled more sectarianism and engendered selfish and opportunistic alliances and platforms.

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May 5 — 10.43pm: Up to 30,000 military personnel are being deployed on Sunday across all areas, Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad Al Mashnouq said. Five connected operation rooms will be co-ordinating with the Defence Ministry to secure the electoral process, the London-based Arabic international newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported.

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May 5, 10pm: Lebanon's vote, the first since 2009 to elect 128 members of parliament, is expected to be a test for the country’s Western-backed Sunni Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, and his Iran-backed Shiite militant opponent, Hizbollah, which is looking to tighten its grip and expand its presence in the 128-seat parliament.

Yet campaigning for the parliamentary election, the first in nine years, has timidly sidestepped the big issues, leaving many Lebanese expecting more of the same. It’s especially galling for Lebanese concerned that a still-dominant Hizbollah could drag the country into a looming Iran-Israel regional confrontation, Associated Press said.

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Read more:

IMF regional chief calls for fiscal discipline in Lebanon

Lebanon election: Laury Haytayan looks to smash men's club status quo

In Lebanon's election, one man's place in parliament is certain

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WATCH: Lebanon prepares for its first parliamentary elections in nearly a decade